Doncaster 1914-18 project revealing a woman’s role during WWI

Nurses at the Arnold Hospital in Doncaster
Nurses at the Arnold Hospital in Doncaster

Doncaster 1914-18 project, Darts at the Point, and the Rebel Daughters of Doncaster invited schools, community groups and members of the public in the town to commemorate the key role played by women during WWI, at an event for International Women’s Day on March 8, says Jude Holland, of Doncaster Museum and Art Gallery.

Women and Work in the First World War, was presented in association with the Imperial War Museum, in the Studio at Darts at the Point, South Parade.

Women workers at the Plant

Women workers at the Plant

The event brought to life the remarkable stories of women during the First World War and how this influenced the women’s suffrage campaign.

2018 marks both 100 years since the end of the First World War and the 100th anniversary of the Representation of the People Act which granted the vote to women over the age of 30 for the first time.

As part of the Imperial War Museum’s Women and War Work 100 season, two short films were screened, drawn from and inspired by the Imperial War Museums archive collection. The films were set in context by History’s Maid (Kate Vigurs) who put on a living history performance on one woman’s war.

This told the heartfelt story of a woman’s experience of First World War recruitment, home-front, rationing and separation from her husband.

Women Agricultural Workers at Mrs Peake's training school, Bawtry

Women Agricultural Workers at Mrs Peake's training school, Bawtry

As men went to off to fight, they left behind their jobs as well as their families. All around Doncaster, women were stepping into new roles. They worked on the trams and railways, as postal workers, window cleaners, munitions workers and farmers.

Women were involved in munitions work at the Great Northern Railway’s Doncaster Works (‘the Plant’), as well as in other industry across Doncaster. There were lots of debates in the local newspapers about women’s abilities to do this wide variety of work. Early in the war, women workers were often called the ‘gentle’ or ‘fair’ sex. However, any concerns about their abilities were swept aside as the value of their work for the war effort became clear.

The event will be introduced by Jo Miller, Doncaster Council’s chief executive. Jo said: “It is an honour to be invited to introduce the event as we mark International Women’s Day 2018 and the 100th anniversary of the Representation of the People Act.

“I’m looking forward to hearing the inspirational stories of women during the First World War and celebrating the tremendous contribution they made in roles which were traditionally viewed as ‘men’s work’, challenging stereotypes and proving they were more than a match to the demands of wartime Britain.”

A woman tram driver during WWI

A woman tram driver during WWI

Doncaster 1914-18 project has been generously supported with a grant of more than £900,000 by the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) across the four-year project. Doncaster 1914-18 features an ever-changing programme of events and exhibitions, uncovering the diverse experiences of Doncaster people on the Home Front, including women’s experiences of war, Doncaster’s role in the Battle of the Somme, Doncaster’s Royal Flying Corps and Airfield, the role of the local countryside and country houses, and Armistice.

To find out about the project visit the www.doncaster1914-18.org.uk/about-the-project/ website.

More information on Rebel Daughters can be found at twitter.com/donnysuffrage.

The Rebel Daughters exhibition is being held at the Point, and it runs until April 7 – visit www.thepoint.org.uk/rebel-daughters/ werbsite for more.

One of the films shown about women’s suffrage is Deeds not Words: The Suffragette Surgeons of WWI.

As part of the broader campaign for women’s right to vote, suffragettes, Flora Murray and Louisa Garrett Anderson, founded the Endell Street Hospital, run entirely by women. Skilfully using rarely seen photographs, letters and archival film, it tells the remarkable story of the women who tirelessly worked at the hospital

The War Women of England illustrates the contribution of British women to the war effort as shown in the War Office Topical Budget newsreel 1917-1918. Including: a recruiting march by girls of the Women’s Land Army in central London, April 1918. A column of WAACs marching to Waterloo Station and boarding a train together, “for men must fight and women must work”.

In France the WAACs did various jobs from motor maintenance to potato peeling. In addition to war service is the question “will there be women MPs?” with Christabel Pankhurst, her mother Mrs Emmeline Pankhurst, ‘General’ Flora Drummond and Annie Kenney outside the Queen’s Hall on November 7 1917.